Monday, 30 May 2011 11:49
Are you proud of your mistakes? Chances are good you’d rather forget them. Who wants to think about the four times you changed your college major, or the day you accidentally called your uptight boss “dude” in a meeting? Mistakes in your love life are probably a whole other can of cringe-worthy worms. But what if these missteps were really a good thing? Maybe you should embrace your romantic pratfalls and make a few more of them.
“Mistakes in relationships represent one of the best ways we can learn what we like and don’t like, and what others like and don’t like,” explains Maryanne Fisher, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Canada and coauthor of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Chemistry of Love. “They also help us push our boundaries. Mistakes represent fantastic opportunities for growth — but you have to have some time to see it that way.”
So, if comedy equals tragedy plus time…perhaps a successful love life equals mistakes plus time, too. With that in mind, go ahead and commit these five dating sins, knowing that wisdom can come of it:
1. Date the bad boy
C’mon, you know you want to. There’s just something alluring about a man who is confident and unpredictable. Often, these bad boys get their dubious reputations because they are only available for a short-term dalliance, and that isn’t necessarily a terrible thing. Dating someone who doesn’t want to settle down could open you up to new experiences and adventures that you might not otherwise have. A corollary to dating the bad boy is dating someone with whom you have absolutely nothing in common. After all, you might just find you really do like watching hockey or playing air guitar.
The key is to go into short-term dalliances with realistic expectations. “If a woman decides to date a ‘bad boy,’ she should know what she’s getting into,” advises Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D., the Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychology Department of Psychology at New York University. “Many women date bad boys hoping they can change them. The fact is, they won’t change them. Women shouldn’t have pretensions about that.” So why bother, then? Kaufman explains, “Sometimes women need to date a bad boy or two before they realize how valuable nice guys really are.” After a few dating mistakes like this one, you’ll be less likely to take a stable relationship when it comes along for granted.
2. Say “I love you” (when you know it’s too soon)
This has to be one of the most classic dating mistakes of all time. As Jerry Seinfeld would say, “If you don’t get that return, that’s a pretty big matzoh ball hanging out there.” Still, being cautious isn’t always the best way to play it in real life. Matzoh ball or not, do you really want to conduct your love life as if it’s some carefully planned military operation? Sometimes blurting out how you feel is the right thing to do. If people stop copping to their feelings all together, where would we be? If you do blurt out those three little words and later regret it, you can recover without changing your cell phone number. Just explain that you were wrapped up in the moment and are of a calmer mind now.
3. Give it one more chance
It might be tough to get back together with an ex when you think of your friends groaning about it. But this “mistake” could be the right thing for you. “In many cases it would be unwise because you have all this baggage as a couple,” Fisher concedes. “However, getting back together and working through that baggage could be useful. It might help you determine why the relationship ended, if that’s still unresolved, or it might actually lead to a long-term relationship with that person.” Finding a real connection with someone isn’t something one should dismiss too easily, after all. Making this particular “mistake” shows you understand that relationships can come with some bumps in the road and still be worthwhile.
4. Go the distance
When you tell your friends she’s moving away but you’re staying together, there might be a few raised eyebrows. After all, conventional wisdom says long-distance relationships are hard to sustain. And, for the most part, the conventional wisdom is correct. When you’re in different time zones, it can be really tough — and expensive — to connect. Laura Stafford, Ph.D., a communication professor at the University of Kentucky-Lexington who studies long-distance courting, elaborates: “When it comes to figuring out compatibilities, [long-distance relationships] deserve a bad rap. A huge number of people who think they will live happily ever after break up when they become proximal to each other.”
But long-distance love doesn’t have to be all bad. Stafford says that a major advantage to the LDR is that you can spend all of your time together like it’s a honeymoon. You tend to be on your best behavior when you get together, and when you’re not in the same city, you can focus completely on work and other obligations. Some people, in fact, prefer dating this way for this very reason. It can be a good fit for the ultra-independent soul, or for young people working to establish themselves in a demanding career. Stafford advises that if you want your LDR to last, you have to get past the honeymoon behavior and make an effort to stay current with your partner — not just on the big things, but on all the little things, too.
5. Let a good one get away
You cannot plan out your love life ahead of time. The perfect person could come along before you’re ready for each other. Don’t be too hard on yourself for letting a good one get away. In fact, this might be the most instructive dating mistake of them all — the game-changer, the one they write screenplays about. The sting you feel when you learn your “good one” has truly moved on — thanks for all those photo updates, Facebook! — is a healthy one. It means that when you meet a new good match for you, you’ll be less cavalier about it.
(Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls and the forthcoming novel, The Secret Ingredient. She’s already made every dating mistake on the planet so you don’t have to.)
By Laura Schaefer
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